Automation holds the key to radically empowering several sectors of Pakistan’s economy. From manufacturing and agriculture to services and logistics, technology can enhance the capacities, efficiencies and production quality of virtually every human activity. Emerging possibilities in process automation truly present an opportunity to drive rapid and empowered transformation.
Exponential, technology-driven transformation is enabling us to envision comprehensive evolution in the way we organize our economic activity and society at large. Developing countries like Pakistan have rarely had the opportunity to leapfrog several generations of innovation, as they do today. Technology-enabled process automation offers Pakistan the opportunity to profoundly upgrade efficiencies in resources utilization and the ability to access unprecedented market opportunities.
Allow me to present an example to explain. Agriculture contributed 30% of Pakistan’s GDP in 1980 but today it is down to 19.5%. Concurrently, the services sector has expanded from 49% to 60% over the same duration. However, the percentage of the workforce engaged in agriculture has only moderately declined as compared to its share in the nation’s economy. This scenario of growth in certain segments and stagnation or decline in others is typical of developing countries. And one of the few strategies that can enhance the economy over the entire gamut of its segments in this milieu is automation, which helps create a balance between efficiencies and costs.
The buck does not stop here. Across the entire range of public- and private-sector enterprises and critical systems – such as public transport, logistics, resource allocation, and security – automation, in my view, holds the potential to reduce external dependencies and vulnerabilities to process integrity and the cost of doing business. Furthermore, it is the key to actively transforming production and the transformation of the country into a competitive economy. Let’s take a close look at several key sectors and how automation can drive benefits within them.
Service sector segments, such as banking and telco, can benefit tremendously from the optimal network and resource utilization made possible by automation. Additionally, the adoption of anytime/anywhere connectivity and services such as cashless transactions and e-commerce activities stands to generate massive amounts of economic activity.
Pakistan’s traditional production strengths, such as agriculture and the textile industry, also stand to gain significantly from technology deployment and process automation. A combination of training and mechanization – as well as the deployment of automated systems in irrigation, greenhouse production, and other innovations – have the potential to radically transform agri-production in Pakistan.
If you look ahead, automation in oil and gas is very interesting. There is a lot of capital involved, and the world economy is impacted based on the price of fuel. So, transformation in this sector has a lot more impact on the common person’s life. Subsequently, the loss of fuel due to theft is a major crisis. We need to begin automating the system’s processes to reduce theft and increase efficiency.
From rationalizing the procurement and distribution of liquid fuels – and reducing their theft and waste – to more efficient production of electricity, the energy sector is a vital cog that can thoroughly revamp efficiencies and production throughout every sector of the economy.
My recent discussions with Pakistan’s prime minister involved this important industry. From tacking location mapping to tagging the weight of the fuel and managing the transport of it from point to point, using analytics can deliver savings in a completely automated fashion.
Understanding what we need from automation
When we talk about automation from developed countries’ point of view, we can discuss full automation and robotics that produce futuristic applications with little or no human interaction. But when it comes to emerging countries, there are specific value factors that we can drive based on how those economies work.
I would, therefore, recommend we ask some critical questions and think about how we want to apply automation’s benefits in various segments. Here are some things to consider:
- How we can use digital transformation to create competitive advantage?
- How are other sectors in the region pursuing such initiatives?
- Which technologies are critical in driving transformation?
- How we can drive automation to increase efficiencies and enable new ways to do business and leverage resources?
- Can we use machines effectively to complete repetitive tasks in my specific sector?
- In the public sector, how can automation drive value without the risk of information exposure?
- In the private sector, you need to look at investments versus savings, meaning efficiency and cost savings need to be deliverables.
Recognition of the opportunities presented by automation is emerging as a consensus in Pakistan. However, we also need a focused emphasis on education and creation of infrastructure to empower and maximize its potential. The positive disruption that these digital transformations will bring requires an ecosystem that initiates and sustains it.
From my vantage point, what makes automation exciting is the fact that it involves using systems to increase efficiency and resources for every type of sector differently. The fact is that today we waste precious human resources on low-level and repeatable tasks. Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could use our human potential to add value instead?
For more on how Pakistan’s emerging economy, see Predictive Analytics Could Offer Intelligence-Led Economic Progress.